Artist Ted Nasmith takes us through paint­ing a cas­tle that Ge­orge RR Martin hasn’t even fully vi­su­alised yet

ImagineFX - - Imaginenation Artist Q&a -

1For East­watch by the Sea, the cas­tle guard­ing the east­ern ter­mi­nus of The Wall, I had lit­tle to go on from the nov­els. Ge­orge RR Martin ad­mits there’s no proper de­scrip­tion of the cas­tle, though he says it’s clear in his mind. My ver­sion is not ac­cu­rate, he told me, while con­ced­ing that was un­der­stand­able.

It wasn’t part of the of­fi­cial se­ries, but a pri­vate com­mis­sion by a fan. I draw thumb­nails to quickly es­tab­lish the ba­sic com­po­si­tion, with el­e­ments of cas­tle, ice wall and seascape. I chose the sketch that had a bet­ter bal­ance of the three el­e­ments.

2I con­sulted pho­tos of Arc­tic and north­ern land­scapes, know­ing the ice wall would ap­pear blue-green, and saw it un­der brood­ing, wind­blown cloud, strate­gi­cally lit from be­hind.

The cas­tle stone and cliffs would be dark in con­trast, and with in­di­ca­tions of woods, rugged hills and al­most black seas, I quickly worked up a colour sketch. It es­tab­lishes the colour, com­po­si­tion and light bal­ance, and gen­eral de­tail, cre­at­ing the tem­plate for the fi­nal art. Of­ten I’ll paint two or more colour stud­ies, but here I felt con­fi­dent with the one sketch.

Martin ad­mits there’s no proper de­scrip­tion of the cas­tle, though he says it’s

clear in his mind

3The fi­nal art­work con­forms quite closely to the sketch ver­sion. I elab­o­rated on the cas­tle to give the fo­cal point of de­tail, with a small, shel­tered port town in front, as hinted in the sketch. The Wall’s end should be some­thing less than a sim­ple, squared-off de­sign, so I kept the an­gled cor­ners that I sketched out in a pre­vi­ous thumb­nail.

The dis­tant shore­line and hills were re­fined to bet­ter serve the im­age, and for the break­ing waves. I con­sulted the rich tra­di­tion of seascape art by such masters as Wil­liam Trost Richards and Al­fred Thomp­son Bricher. I also con­sulted a pic­ture book I own ti­tled Su­pe­rior: The Haunted Shore. A collection of nar­rated pho­tos, it evoca­tively cap­tures Lake Su­pe­rior’s wild win­ter dark­ness, a mood I read­ily adapted to East­watch.

For me, such im­agery is deeper in my DNA, per­haps due to be­ing Cana­dian. Harsh, lonely wilds and colder, more for­bid­ding land­scapes seem to arouse my hap­pi­est artis­tic in­stincts and haunt my thoughts.

Com­ing from an ar­chi­tec­tural back­ground, Ted ap­pre­ci­ates Ice and Fire’s “be­liev­able con­ti­nen­tal mass: so­phis­ti­cated, log­i­cal. As with Tolkien, Martin de­scribes not only its breadth but its deep his­tory and lore. Martin’s elab­o­rate de­tail of­fers ex­cel­lent ma­te­rial for the artist to base im­agery upon.” Of the two ti­tans’ mas­ter­works, Martin’s is the more nar­ra­tive driven – a fact that Marc Si­mon­etti used to his ad­van­tage to pro­duce one of Ge­orge’s favourite paint­ings.

The art is in­side the book. I’m mak­ing an im­age that’ll make some­one want to grab the book

“The minute I saw Marc’s work on the French book edi­tions I thought to my­self, ‘this guy is great, let’s hire him for some more,’” says Ge­orge.

If it wasn’t for Marc Si­mon­etti’s sin­gle­mind­ed­ness, this recog­ni­tion might not have hap­pened. He trained as an en­gi­neer, and one day while for­mu­lat­ing the coat­ings for non-stick fry­ing pans he de­cided to jump ship and start from zero. He was al­ready paint­ing ev­ery spare mo­ment and had de­voured Terry Pratch­ett’s best­selling Dis­c­world books, be­fore turn­ing his at­ten­tion to Ice and Fire. That was a good start. Af­ter “tons” of FFG Game of Thrones card art jobs, an im­pressed pub­lisher gave him carte blanche on in­ter­na­tional Ice and Fire book cov­ers. With an in­ti­mate knowl­edge and love of the text, given fur­ther force by a rare hu­mil­ity, he got

Cold as ice 3D artist Martin Rezard worked up ini­tial de­signs of the fear­some White Walk­ers for the TV se­ries.

First Rang­ing Jean Pierre Tar­gete took the de­vel­op­ing char­ac­ter Jon Snow for

this FFG card piece. stuck in. “I’m not mak­ing art,” says Marc to­day. “The art is in­side the book. I’m mak­ing an im­age that’ll make some­one want to grab the book.”

im­pres­sion­is­tic Marc’s usual ap­proach to such a vast world would be to pick on the small­est de­tail: “A glimpse of two lines from a thou­sand pages”. In­deed, for Ice and Fire he didn’t want to rep­re­sent a scene from the book at all. “I wanted to make a generic il­lus­tra­tion to give the idea of how big it is, of how adult it is – it’s not the aver­age fan­tasy book,” he says. “It’s not about a clas­sic scene of fight­ing, or a wild ef­fect. It’s about

in­tel­li­gence, people – real char­ac­ters. That’s why I tried to stick to a more tra­di­tional feel­ing, Im­pres­sion­ist, Sergeant, Sis­ley, Whistler.”

For a Mex­i­can edi­tion of the books he painted the Iron Throne – made of a 1,000 swords. Ge­orge was im­pressed, but it wasn’t quite there yet. An ex­change of emails be­tween the two pre­ceded Marc’s sec­ond at­tempt, for forth­com­ing book The World of Ice and Fire. The re­sult was spot on. “The sec­ond ver­sion of the Iron Throne that he did, it re­ally is the Iron Throne the way I see it,” de­clares the au­thor.

Valar morghulis The fu­ture looks healthy for Ice and Fire art. Donato Giancola is en­joy­ing his work on the 2015 Ice and Fire cal­en­dar – he’s even try­ing to change the fab­ric of time so he can ex­tend the project. “I’ve been work­ing on sketches and con­cept draw­ings for the past two months,” he

Ge­orge is a fan of artists and be­lieves that you prime the pump and then let the artist do what they do best

says, “and I jok­ingly told Ge­orge that Wes­teros should have 14 months to their year, just so I could cre­ate more paint­ings.”

Long be­fore try­ing to es­tab­lish the Dona­to­nian cal­en­dar, the artist took to this fan­tasy world some 12 years ago with a com­mis­sion to paint Melisan­dre, Red Priest­ess of the Lord of Light. It should come as no sur­prise who was on hand to give him some pointers. “Ge­orge is a fan of artists and be­lieves that you prime the pump and then let the artist do what they do best,” says Donato. Those old habits again!

And un­like the other pop­u­lar fan­tasy epic that’s long since closed its en­chanted stone doors on events, there’s no end in sight for this densely webbed story or the ac­com­pa­ny­ing art­work.

With the sixth book of the se­ries im­mi­nent, and the fifth TV sea­son al­ready snap­ping at the au­thor’s heels, many more brushes and sty­luses will be wielded to help vi­su­alise what Ge­orge RR Martin continues to see in his mind’s eye.

The Oth­ers “I think this piece was the in­spi­ra­tion for the Oth­ers in the of­fi­cial graphic novel adap­ta­tion,” says John.


John worked on his 2012 cal­en­dar while the first TV se­ries was in pro­duc­tion, cre­at­ing unique in­ter­pre­ta­tions.

Gate­way Kim­ber­ley Pope worked on the HBO se­ries in Belfast, cre­at­ing con­cepts for all the main en­vi­ron­ments.

Desert par­adise

Art stu­dio Karak­ter worked on many matte paint­ings of Qarth for sea­son two – when Daen­erys and her pets con­front

The Spice King.

Mother and son Marc Si­mon­etti has painted sev­eral of the char­ac­ters, as well as his iconic take on

King’s Land­ing’s Iron Throne.

Dany The mo­ment Daen­erys be­comes the Mother of Drag­ons – as de­picted by Michael Ko­marck for the Game of Thrones FFG card game.


The art of Game of Thrones

books We’ve got 10 copies of Fan­tasy Flight Games’ Art of Game of Thrones books to give away.

To en­ter, head on over to


Devil in the de­tail Kim­ber­ley’s mu­ral is added to the front view of the as-yet un­con­quered Qarth.

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